This has led many producers to explore options to owning enough bulls to breed to their cows in a defined breeding season. Artificial insemination (A.I.) is one of the most effective tools available to enhance the productivity and profitability of beef cattle production systems.

Wells robert
Livestock Consultant / Noble Research Institute

Estrus synchronization and timed A.I. are economically viable alternatives to owning a bull if the producer has multiple bulls.

A.I. is not just for purebred breeders but has applications at the commercial level as well. The advantages of using A.I. are numerous and well-documented. Some of them include:

  • The ability to use sires of superior genetic merit

  • Rapid improvement in traits important to an operation

  • The ability to mate specific sires to individual cows

  • Elimination of separate breeding pastures

  • Elimination or reduction of disease transmission from cow to cow

  • Increased genetic merit of retained replacement heifers

  • When combined with estrus synchronization, a shorter calving season can be achieved, resulting in a more consistent, uniform calf crop.

  • Increased weaning weights from older calves and better genetics

The tighter calving season is a result of estrus synchronization and timed A.I., followed by natural breeding for the remainder of a 90-day season. Refer to Tables 1 and 2.

Typical calving distribution using natural bull services

Each of the scenarios assumes a 50-cow herd with a 94 percent conception rate, calving in March, and weaning and selling in mid-October. Compared to natural service for 90 days (Table 1), the synchronization/timed A.I. program (Table 2) can significantly improve subsequent calving distribution.


Typical calving distribution using timed A.I.

It is not uncommon to see a 65 percent or higher conception rate in the first 30 days of the calving season when using timed A.I. followed by natural bull exposure.

More calves born early in the calving season will be older and weigh more at weaning. The value of the pounds of beef produced in each breeding system was estimated using the forecasting tool at for mid-October and selling in Oklahoma.

Additionally, most producers will be able to buy better growth genetics from an A.I. bull stud than they could afford to purchase with the live animal for natural service.

Therefore, the A.I. conceived calves are likely to have better average daily gain values than those conceived through natural bull service. Recently, bulls that are calving ease with high growth genetics (weaning and yearling EPDs in the top 20 percent) have been selling in the $7,000 to $9,000 range. By comparison to estrus synchronize and A.I., breeding a 50-head herd will cost about $2,500.

In a multiple bull battery, timed A.I. can reduce herd bull requirements by 50 percent. In the 50-head herd, this will save the purchase cost of one replacement bull.

The gross revenue increase for timed A.I. followed by natural breeding is $7,383. The cost of the estrus synchronization and timed A.I. program was $50 per head, for a total of $2,500. This includes the cost of synchronization, semen and an A.I. technician.

No cost was assigned for labor to process the cows three additional times through the chute since these costs are highly variable. Thus, the net increased value of the calf crop due to the estrus synchronization and timed A.I. program is $4,883.

Now add in the savings of not purchasing an additional bull amortized over a five-year lifespan ($7,000 to $2,000 salvage value/five years = $1,000) and the annual maintenance cost of the bull ($400). This equates to an annual total increase in revenue to the ranch of $6,283 for a 50-cow herd.

Some of the typical reasons for not utilizing A.I. programs are lack of time, additional labor, and management and cost of implementing a sound program. For an A.I. program to be successful, a well-planned nutrition program is essential including feed, forage and mineral programs.

Additionally, an effective herd health program needs to be implemented, and the producer needs to have adequate working facilities that will not put unnecessary stress on the female. All of the above factors can be easily overcome with a little planning and work. The benefits of an A.I. and estrus synchronization program will far outweigh any costs.

Before you buy your next bull, consider if an A.I. program is right for your operation. It can require additional trips through a chute or an effective MGA feeding program, but the potential increase in revenue is significant.  end mark